PavCo's casino story gets fishier

“BC Pavilion Corp. chairman David Podmore said Thursday that if the proposed casino and hotel complex at BC Place is rejected by Vancouver city council, the Crown corporation will be left without a way to pay for the new $563-million stadium roof and repairs.”

Global TV News, Feb 25, 2011

“Contrary to reports that the $563-million renovation of the stadium will be imperilled if the Paragon Gaming casino project – triple the size of the current casino now in the neighbourhood – doesn’t go ahead, CEO Warren Buckley said, “We’ll be fine. We are fully committed on all the materials so there would be no scaling back.”

The Globe and Mail, March 15, 2011

Two and a half weeks ago, PavCo Chairman David Podmore wrung his hands in public and said rejecting the casino puts the whole BC Place Stadium project at risk.

Yesterday, PavCo CEO Warren Buckley said his boss was feeding us a line.

Can we believe a word the BC Government and its henchmen over at PavCo say when it comes to the casino/stadium project? Apparently not.

Buckley’s statements are inconsistent with PavCo’s assertions about the importance of the casino to the stadium development plans. The BC Liberal government doesn’t need that casino. They could use some kind of development to pay a small part of the bill.

But that’s not the end of the story. Buckley’s comments raised some serious issues for taxpayers about the BC Place stadium costs and financing.

In October 2009, when Podmore revealed the $485 million ‘final’ cost of what is now a $563 million retractable roof, he spoke to the financing.  According to The Vancouver Sun, Podmore claimed:

“The $485-million (sic) cost will be financed through a 40-year loan from the government to the BC Pavilion Corp., a.k.a. PavCo.

Podmore said the loan will be covered by shifting $42 million left from the Vancouver Convention Centre construction project to the BC Place Stadium upgrade and through the sale of development rights on the lands at the western edge of the stadium.”

Yesterday, Buckley told Frances Bula that Podmore’s assertions were not accurate.

According to Bula’s story, Buckley said "the $6-million a year that Paragon has offered to pay for a land lease was intended to cover only about $75-million of the total cost.”   She then went on to detail the ‘real’ financing plan according to Buckley.  Surprise, the over-budget BC Place Stadium is being financed almost entirely by the taxpayers:

“The reality is that much of the stadium’s renovation costs are coming from general tax dollars. Of the total, he said, $277-million was a straight capital grant from the province. Another $40-million also came from the province as compensation for maintenance that had been deferred many years on the stadium."

That will be news for deposed tourism minister Kevin Kreuger, who used his fingers in the house to count out the cost for his critic Spencer Chandra Herbert. Kreuger maintained that 70 years multiplied by $6 million equals $420 million, which means the payments ipso facto cover the cost of the development.  Not so, Mr. Never-Read-the-Briefing-Book.

Bula wrote that of the $563 million cost, PavCo was only intending on repaying $150 million. And much of that will come from money the taxpayers fronted for the over-budget Convention Centre project and the sale of Bridge Film studios amongst other sources.

In other words, the government and its appointees have misrepresented all along about the BC Place costs and financing.

And to what end?  By overstating the importance of the casino to the BC Place funding, PavCo was supporting an unnecessary casino project that benefits friends and donors to the BC Liberal Party.

Now with the casino likely going down, we learn it was never really necessary in the first place.

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